MOSCOW - A treatment for HIV may be found in Siberian mushrooms that have been used in Russia since the 16th century as a folk remedy, a group of Russian scientists says.
The scientists from the Vector research institute in southwestern Siberia say they have identified three types of mushroom found in that region that can be developed into antiviral medicines, the institute said in a statement on its website.
“Strains of these mushrooms demonstrated low toxicity and a strong antiviral effect” against influenza, smallpox and HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, the statement said.
Tests showed the most effective to be the Chaga mushroom, which grows on birch trees.
Collecting mushrooms is a much-loved pastime in Russia. Folk remedies are also popular here.
Chaga is mentioned as an anticancer drug in Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s play “Cancer Ward” and in recent years has become a popular dietary supplement in the West.
The Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York says on its website that “no clinical trials have been conducted to assess Chaga’s safety and efficacy for disease prevention or for the treatment of cancer.”
The statement by the Russian scientists says they intend to use the mushrooms to produce medicines.
“It’s a promising line of development,” the Vector institute said.
In Soviet times, the Vector research institute was a Soviet biological weapons facility and stored deadly viruses, including those causing smallpox.